Measure For Measure: Steal This Song

As the old saying goes, “A good composer does not imitate; he steals.” But don’t expect that argument to hold up when you wind up in copyright court. Incidentally, copyright law varies, so investigate. As a rule, compositions dated 1922 or later and all sound recordings to the year 2067 are covered (see Circular 15A, U.S. Copyright Office). The line between imitation and theft is a fine one, but there is one safe way to steal some great song material: raid the repertoires of Bach, Beethoven, Brahms, Mozart, and company. Pop song composers do it all the time. Just for fun, take the following quiz (answers at the end of the column): Match these classics: 1) “Jesu Joy Of Man’s Desiring,” J.S. Bach; 2) “Gymnopedie No. 1,” Erik Satie; 3) “Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini, Variation 18,” Sergei Rachmaninov; 4) “Plaisir d’Amour,” Paul Martini; 5) “Canon in D,” Johann Pachelbel; 6) “Minuet in G,” J.S. Bach (or Christian Petzold); 7) Cantata 156, “Ich steh mit einem Fuß im Grabe,” J.S. Bach; 8), Piano Sonata No. 8, Pathétique, L.V. Beethoven; 9) Symphony No. 5 (horn motif), Jean Sibelius; 10) “Moonlight Sonata,” L.V. Beethoven With these pop songs: A) “A Whiter…

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